Saturday, 6 May 2017

Mahura pulls out huge comeback win for Pats

Regina ties WHL title series with Thunderbirds 1-1

The Regina Pats pile on top of Josh Mahura after he scores his OT winner.
    REGINA – Josh Mahura’s playoff savvy showed through for the Regina Pats.
    The third-year rearguard showed why the Pats decide to acquire him in a WHL trade deadline deal with the Red Deer Rebels back on Jan. 10. The 18-year-old St. Albert product missed all but two games of last year’s regular season with the Rebels due to a serious knee injury.
    He returned to be a key contributor to the Rebels run to the WHL Eastern Conference championship series and a semifinal appearance as the host squad in the Memorial Cup tournament.
    On Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 6,484 spectators at the Brandt Centre, Mahura was the key figure in powering the Regina Pats to a 4-3 comeback victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds in Game 2 of the WHL Championship series. With the win, the Pats tie the best-of-seven set 1-1.
Josh Mahura scored twice for the Pats on Saturday night.
    The Thunderbirds built a 3-1 lead early in the second period scoring three times in a span of 56 seconds.
    To make matters worse for the host side, the Pats were without captain Adam Brooks with an undisclosed injury after he received a crunching open ice hit from Thunderbirds defenceman Turner Ottenbreit in Seattle’s 2-1 overtime victory in Game 1 on Friday.
    After going ahead 3-1 on Saturday, the visitors were controlling the game at that point, but they gave the Pats a chance to get back into the contest taking three successive penalties in the second half of the second frame.
    Working on the power play with 1:25 to play in the second, Mahura tapped home a loose puck at the right side of the Seattle goal during a net scramble to cut the Thunderbirds lead to 3-2. That effort turned out to the cue the comeback.
Pats D Josh Mahura (#5) defends against Thunderbirds C Mathew Barzal.
    At the 5:20 mark of the third, Pats import left-winger Filip Ahl stole the puck from a Thunderbirds defenceman and scored on a turnaround shot to tie things up a 3-3.
    When the contest proceeded to go to overtime, the Pats caught another break, when Thunderbirds right-winger Keegan Kolesar took a minor kneeing penalty behind the play on Pats defenceman Connor Hobbs.
    On the ensuing power play, Mahura blasted home the winner at the 5:22 mark of the extra session to deliver the Pats to victory.
    “We knew we needed to win tonight, and that was the bottom line,” said Mahara. “When it went in, it was like a sigh of relief for not just me but the whole team.
    “We needed to tie the series up here at home.”
Keegan Kolesar took a costly penalty in overtime.
    Last year, Mahura, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds, ate up huge minutes playing the back end for the Rebels in the post-season. When he arrived in Regina via trade, he instantly gave the Pats more depth on their backend with his ability to play both ends of the ice.
    In 73 games this past regular season with both the Rebels and Pats, the third round 2016 NHL Entry Draft selection of the Anaheim Ducks piled up 17 goals, 36 assists and a plus-17 rating in the plus-minus department.
    “We made a big trade for a reason,” said Pats head coach and general manager John Paddock. “He is one of the top defencemen in the league.
    “He is part of our first four defenceman which I think is big for our team. We got him for this year, and we got him for next year.”
    The Pats gained a rearguard who has loads of playoff experience, which is key to helping counter the experience contained in the Thunderbirds, who returned 14 skaters from last year’s squad that appeared in the WHL championship series loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
    Coming from the Rebels, the Pats also gained a player in Mahura who has a team-first mentality. That showed when he was asked how good it was to come through in big moments for the Pats in the post-game media conference.
Alexander True (#16) was pumped after putting Seattle up 3-1.
    “You are not thinking about yourself or getting goal for yourself,” said Mahara. “You are thinking about getting that win for the guys that have been battling all year for you.”
    The Pats got out to a quick jump in Saturday’s game, when WHL MVP Sam Steel scored 50 seconds into the contest after being on the receiving end of a turnover by a Thunderbirds defenceman. Steel later drew an assist on Mahura’s first goal.
    While the Pats took a 1-0 lead on Steel’s tally, the Thunderbirds experience showed through as they started to carry play in the contest. Early in the second, the Thunderbirds broke through on the scoreboard as Austin Strand, Turner Ottenbreit and Alexander True all netted singles to go ahead 3-1.
    From that point, Pats netminder Tyler Brown slammed the door making 27 saves to pick up the win in goal as Regina battled back. Thunderbirds netminder Carl Stankowski, who is in his 16-year-old rookie season, turned away 22 shots to take the loss in goal for Seattle.
WHL MVP Sam Steel had a goal and an assist in the Pats win.
    With the comeback win, the Pats head into Tuesday’s Game 3 at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., with momentum. The Thunderbirds, who host Games 3 to 5 of the WHL title series, are already beginning to reset.
    Part of the reset comes from Thunderbirds head coach Steve Konowalchuk having faith in Kolesar, who took the overtime penalty that ultimately cost his side the game. Kolesar missed his team’s series opening win over the Pats on Friday serving a one-game suspension.
    Kolesar was suspended for taking a checking from behind major in Seattle’s Western Conference championship series clinching 3-1 Game 6 victory over the Rockets in Kelowna on April 30.
    As for Kolesar’s penalty in Saturday’s loss, Konowalchuk spoke about the importance of going forward.
The Regiment at the Brandt Centre celebrate the Pats OT victory.
    “You don’t want your player or any player to be in that situation and get a penalty,” said Konowalchuk. “Mistakes happen. We’ll go to battle with Keegan at any time.
    “He’s disappointed for our team. He is an emotional kid. They are kids and that’s part of it.
    “That is part of the process the highs and lows of playoffs. He has to move on, and we have to move on.”

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